Wednesday, December 21, 2005

ID is neither valid, nor scientific, nor explanatory, nor data-driven. Discuss.

Yaakov Menken, no stranger to stupidity, posted today about the Dover Court's anti-ID decision. For your amusement I solicited a response to Menken's post from Mis-Nagid. It follows:

"If our Constitution, however, is to be understood as forbidding any mention in public schools of even the possibility that the universe was brought into being by the Creator, that should deeply trouble all Americans. [quoted from Rabbi Zwiebel]"

That is not what was said. What was disallowed was not the teaching of religion, but the teaching of religion as science, in a public school science class. They're welcome to "mention [...] the possibility that the universe was brought into being by the Creator" -- in a religion class.

"The proponents were wrong for so doing; the judge was wrong to base his legal decision upon the ulterior motives of the proponents."

Did he read Judge Jones's ruling? It's a marvel of clarity. There's no doubt that the judge's ruling was not on the basis of the motives of the proponents. It was a legal decision on the merits of the claims, as a complete reading of the ruling easily confirms. Cherry-picking one (legitimate) complaint and claiming it as the basis for the ruling is itself a dishonest maneuver.

"Intelligent Design [...] would be completely uncontroversial were not its conclusion so full of ramifications."

It's not controversial. There's no controversy about it that's not the artificial creation of well-funded religious groups. ID is non-science; it's a religious claim, period. It's like Fox specials on alien autopsies breathlessly promoting the "controversy" by quoting "both sides" of the issue. Say it loudly enough and put in on repeat and suddenly there's a "controversy."

"It is merely an alternative (and somewhat obvious) conclusion derived from the same data."

Obvious? To whom? Apparently not to the people who study biology professionally, since they're nearly unanimous in rejecting it. And if ID were truly "derived from the data" it could be demonstrated as such with more than mere hand-waving and rhetoric. If it's the alternative to evolution, where are the papers and experiments that support this "alternative," as are readily and copiously available for evolution? Surely the "derivation from data" is not just a renaming of the divine fallacy?

"If we employ the same standards of probability [...] both the formation of life and the development of many structures most probably did not happen by chance."

That's right, they didn't happen by chance. They happened by evolution, the non-random selection of mutations.

"Every scientist acknowledges that there are gaps they have not figured out, things which seem fantastically unlikely -- they simply believe that they will."

There are no gaps raised by ID in the theory of evolution. There are gaps in the known data, which is both not a problem for a theory, and totally expected for processes that occurred millions of years ago. If there was actual data that contradicted evolution, for example a modern horse skeleton from the pre-Cambrian era, that would be a problem for evolution. If the hereditary mechanism of life had been found to be incompatible between all forms of life, that would be a problem for evolution. But there are no out-of-place skeletons, and DNA is the basis of nearly all life. The only gap is the one ID is an attempt to create for the purpose of cramming their (very tiny by now) God of the Gaps into.

"Time magazine's "Darwin Victorious" is an unabashed attempt to trash Intelligent Design, yet it makes a stunning admission"

Time magazine is not a science journal. They're reporting the (incorrect) claim that certain structures could not have come about through evolution -- and that the scientists rebut this claim. Furthermore, there are real science journals that contain papers about the evolution of the eye and bacterial flagella, a point Menken and ID-ists leave out.

"'To which the vast majority of biologists say nonsense. We don't have remotely enough information to make such a statement.'

In other words, the ID proponents are not necessarily wrong -- they are just not sure yet.

Crediting claims that have no evidence but haven't been disproved yet is not how science works. Scientists would give the same response to the claim that aliens manufactured life on Earth. In fact, they did say that when it was seriously suggested. Saying "they're not sure yet" is no more a credit to ID than it is to alien manufacture, since there's no end to the number of unsupported claims that haven't been disproven. If you want ID to be accepted as science, you have to provide the evidence, not just be "not necessarily wrong."

"And since they don't have enough information, the proponents of evolution simply assume that somehow the numbers will work out, and dismiss ID as "unscientific.""

The numbers do work out, as shown in tens of thousands of papers over more than a hundred years; it's only ID lies that they don't. The dismissal of ID as unscientific is precisely the correct response. They're not saying it isn't true, just that it isn't scientific -- and that's the truth.

"Bereft of the assumption made by science that it can explain everything naturally"

That is not a claim made by science. That's scientism, a separate subject. Science does require that only natural explanations are classifed as scientific, but it does not say that this methodology can explain everything.

In his short article, Menken confuses what science is (not scientism), what evolution is (not random), what ID is (not scientific), what the ruling's basis was (not motives), what a theory must explain (not non-existent evidence), and more. That's pretty impressive for such a small post.

"ID is actually a more valid scientific explanation of the current data."

Menken's final line reminds me of the Saturday Night Live skit where Mike Myers as Coffee Talk's Linda Richman says "The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. Discuss." ID is neither valid, nor scientific, nor explanatory, nor data-driven. Discuss.